The Accutane Purge: Getting Through the First Month

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

What is purging? Is purging real? Purging. One of the scariest words to think about when starting a new cream or medicine for our skin. Purging refers to a process where active ingredients in a medicine cause our cells to turn over faster. During this process the skin sheds faster and fresh, clear skin from beneath comes to the top. But along with fresh, clear skin comes all of the junk which was clogging pores like oil, dead skin cells and more. This is the purge. What causes purging? Is it the same as a breakout? How long does purging last? As the outer layer of skin is shedding faster, usually from acids, retinols and retinoids like isotretinoin, pimples like milia, blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, cysts and nodules can arise. Dryness and peeling can occur, too. Both topical and oral medications can cause a purge. And chemical peels can cause it, too. The biggest difference between a purge and a breakout is that after a purge, usually healthy skin follows. Purges usually happen in a spot where you break out a lot, but the flare subsides quicker than normal pimples fade away. A normal breakout lasts about 8-10 days. Purges usually don't happen from products other than acids, peels or retinoids. If you develop a breakout from a different product you may be having an allergic reaction. How should you handle a purge? Gentle skin care is important during a purge to calm down any intense inflammation. Sunscreen, oil-free moisturizers and foaming, non-harsh cleansers are the mainstay. If your doctor gave you the medicine causing the purge then it's important to stick with it and get through it, despite the urge to stop. If you think the purge is unusually bad you should contact your doctor. If you are getting your generic Accutane online through our service, your dermatologist is just a click away for advice.

Can purging be sped up? Purge cycles vary from person to person due to the unique nature of our skin. The average skin turnover cycle is about 30 days, which is the average amount of time for a purge to pass. You can't speed it up and you shouldn't pick acne, use other drying products like harsh soaps, scrubs or exfoliants. You could lead to permanent scarring. Some people don't know that spot treatments often can be drying and worsen the problem. Preventing a purge Nobody loves a purge, but it's almost guaranteed with some medicines. If you ease your way into a new medicine by starting slowly, at a lower dose or using it less frequently, you might be able to soften the severity of the purge. Sometimes your doctor might recommend medicines to take during the purging process to make it less severe, like steroids. Should I even bother? It's totally worth it! A purge can look embarrassing and you might have to plan it for the right time when you have a quiet social calendar. But just ask around and hear from other people who went through a purge - beautiful skin is close behind! Dr Riyaz, a dermatologist in Washington D.C., say that he often has to coach patients through the first month. "I have to remind them that all the hard work will pay off in the end," he says.


Costa CS, Bagatin E, Martimbianco ALC, et al. Oral isotretinoin for acne. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018

On SC, Zeichner J. Isotretinoin updates. Dermatol Ther. 2013

Patient Perspectives: Treating acne with isotretinoin. Pediatr Dermatol. 2015.

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